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Fuchsia

Onagraceae
Evergreen, Shrubs

The fuchsia comes from wet, mountainous areas, mainly in tropical America. Most fuchsias bloom from late spring to first frost (and some bloom even longer), bearing unscented ­flowers frequented by hummingbirds. Pop­ular showy-blossomed fuchsias are forms of F. x hybrida and are discussed under that heading.

Some species fuchsias have blooms that are smaller overall than those of hybrids; others bear large, tubular flowers in unusual colors. Fuchsias grow best in cool-summer areas with much moisture in the atmosphere and soil. Plant in-ground fuchsias in full sun in the Northwest; give potted ones there and all fuchsias farther south either morning sun or all-day dappled shade. If you live where fog rolls in on summer afternoons, any place in your garden will supply ideal conditions. Where summers are warm, windy, or dry, seek or create favorable exposure protected from wind and hot afternoon sun.

A heavy mulch (1 1/2–3 in. thick) helps keep soil moist in hot climates. Frequent overhead sprinkling is beneficial in several ways: it keeps leaves clean, discourages some pests, and counteracts low humidity. Blooms appear on new wood, so do any pruning before spring growth begins. In addition to removing broken or crossing branches, you can prune as little or as much as desired to maintain size or to shape the plant.

Fuchsia fulgens (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Fuchsia fulgens (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Fuchsia fulgens

From Mexico. This evergreen grows to 5 ft. tall and wide, with heart-shaped, light green leaves to about 8 in. long. Blooms from winter into spring, bearing pendent clusters of orange-red flowers to 3 in. long. Resistant to fuchsia gall mite.

Fuchsia magellanica
Fuchsia magellanica

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Fuchsia magellanica

Native to Chile and Argentina. In virtually frost-free areas, attains 10 ft. or taller and as wide or wider. In the North­west, will reach 5–6 1/2 ft. tall and wide if not frozen back; can grow 4–5 ft. in a season after being frozen back. Profuse production of drooping, 1 1/2-in.-long, red-and-violet flowers in summer and fall; especially floriferous when chilly fall rains start and not much else thrives. Oval, 1/2–1-in.-long leaves grow in groups of two or three. Very vulnerable to fuchsia gall mite. This is the parent of most hybrid fuchsias, which have inherited its mite susceptibility.

Fuchsia procumbens

From New Zealand. Prostrate, spreading growth to about 6 in. high and 3–4 ft. wide. Heart-shaped, half-inch-long leaves. Tiny, petalless flowers in summer deserve close inspection: they have pale orange sepals with green markings and purple tips, and their anthers and pollen are bright blue. Showy, 3/4-in. bright red berries follow. Good as a groundcover and in containers. Resistant to fuchsia gall mite.

Fuchsia x hybrida
Fuchsia x hybrida

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Fuchsia x hybrida

The vast majority of fuchsias with showy flowers fall into this hybrid group. Many hundreds of selections are sold in the West, offering a wide variety of combinations of all colors in the range. Sepals (the top parts that flare back) are always white, red, or pink. The corolla (the inside part of the flower) may be almost any color in range of white, blue violet, purple, pink, red, and shades approaching orange. Flowers range from shelled-peanut size to giants as big as a child’s fist. Some flowers are single, with just one layer of closely set petals in the corolla; some are very double, with many sets of ruffled petals in the corolla. Small-flowered types often have small leaves, while big-flowered sorts have large leaves.

The plant form varies widely; choices range from erect-growing shrubs 3–6 ft. high and wide to trailing types grown in hanging baskets. You can also train (or buy) fuchsias as espaliers and standards (miniature tree forms).

Gardeners in California should note that, due to susceptible parentage, many if not most hybrids are susceptible to mite damage. Mite-resistant selections include ‘Carnival’, ‘Mrs. Victor Reiter’, and ‘Trumpeter’.

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